I’m thinking that if someone asked Chase Elliott, “When are you going to win a race?” he would sigh, roll his eyes and mumble: “Soon.”
That would indicate that, indeed, Elliott has heard that question many times before and is a bit weary of hearing it again – not to mention answering it.
Elliott has been targeted as a future Monster Series NASCAR Cup star largely for three reasons: He is the son of the legendary Bill Elliott – one of stock car racing’s most popular and successful competitors – he has displayed significant on-track talent and he is associated with Hendrick Motorsports, arguably the best team in stock car racing in recent years.
Yes, it would seem all the pieces are there. But as of now Elliott has been unable to put them all together.
Oh, he has come close.
He’s finished second eight times in his career, which began in 2015. He did so again this past weekend at Richmond, which fueled speculation over when he might win.
That he is under scrutiny because of his father’s legacy is true, but a bit unfair. I have never believed that, in racing, a son is expected to achieve at least as much as his heralded father. It’s pretty much the same in all professional sports.
There are too many differences – circumstances, environment, personal ambition, desire and, yes, talent among them.
I admit that Richard Petty eclipsed his father Lee. But son Kyle never approached his father’s accomplishments.
Larry Pearson came up well short of his father David. Davey Allison’s tragic and premature death robbed us of the chance to see if he could take the measure of his father Bobby.
In terms of competition, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was never the equal of his father. But he matched, perhaps exceeded, his popularity.
But then, Dale Jarrett became a champion like his father Ned and has joined him in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
As you know, there are other examples.
Despite the legacies, none of the sons can be called a failure in stock car racing – not by any measure.
So it is unreasonable to expect young Elliott to become his father’s equal. Notice I did not say he wouldn’t – there is time.
In fact Elliott’s father finished second eight times before he won his first race in 1983 at Riverside.
“I think it is a work in progress,” Elliott said after Richmond. “We have work to do and we know that.
“I think if we looked at the results we would feel OK about it but I think in reality we shouldn’t feel good about it. We need to focus on getting better.”
That’s the kind of attitude it takes to be a winner.
Elliott’s season has not be helped by the fact his team has been penalized three times over the last 19 races for post-race technical infractions.
The team lost 45 points and crew chief Alan Gustafson for two races in penalties inflicted at Phoenix and Texas.
As a result Elliott stands 20th in points when he should be 15th.
Elliott does not agree that the desire to win at all costs has forced his team to make “modifications.”
“Nothing has been purposeful,” he said. “We are pushing every area we can just like everybody else.
“We want to do good. But are we pushing and getting into trouble and doing things on purpose to have that happen? No.”
Second place isn’t a victory, of course, but for Elliott it is a welcome change from recent weeks, which include an accident at Bristol.
“I think for sure we have been getting better over the course of the last few weeks, despite our crash at Bristol,” said Elliott, who has only two top-five finishes for the season. “At Richmond, it was nice to be on the good side of things for a change.
“But we all know we need to do better.”
And if that does happen rest assured we won’t have to ask Elliott when he will win a race.
He will have already done so.
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